Friday, June 8, 2012

Phony Outrage

Let's see.... it's been more than a week since the New York Times first broke the story that President Obama has a secret list containing the names of "militants" and "terrorists" being targeted for assassination. Among other things, we learned that the president himself is the ultimate decider of who lives and who dies. Then, close upon its heels came another scoop, describing how Obama took over a secret cyber-war against Iran begun by George W. Bush.The Stuxnet virus, long suspected to be a joint American-Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, turns out to have been another program with hands-on direction from the president himself. 

Did the White House immediately issue statements denying the veracity of the information contained in these stories, and vowing to launch immediate investigations into who divulged state secrets to Times reporters? It did not. It neither denied, nor reacted in any way, other than a few brusque "no comments" due to the secretive, sensitive nature of the information that conveniently, somehow leaked out of the deepest recesses of the Situation Room.

For its part, too, Congress was initially and predictably silent. After all, the drone strikes are an open secret. Congress appropriates the money for them.Thousands have died from American bombs in Pakistan and Yemen and Somalia, many of them innocent men, women and children. The only outrage had been coming from the lonely outposts of the civil libertarian blogosphere and independent journalism. Polls have shown that most "liberals" are just fine with our President unilaterally taking it upon himself to kill Muslims, to keep us all "safe."

But when the Paper of Record sat up and took notice and spilled the beans on the Kill List and Stuxnetgate, Congress also finally sat up and took notice, howling about how that, and the drone program revelations are endangering national security. Depending on their political party, they alternately blamed the newspaper itself for publishing the articles, and accused the White House of being the source of the leaks. Democrat Dianne Feinstein is upset that such information being made public will make us less safe. Republican John McCain is livid that the information appears to have been leaked for pure political gain, to boost the president's re-election prospects. None of the power elites is complaining about the illegality of the programs, executive overreach, or the loss of innocent human life. Just the leaks, and nothing but the leaks.

And today, President Obama himself sat up and took notice. Without actually confirming that he is in fact, Lord High Executioner, he vociferously denied that his White House has been the source for the Times stories. (this, despite the fact that reporters wrote that their sources were a hefty three dozen White House insiders!) Quotes from his press con this morning:
"The notion that my White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive. It's wrong.... People I think need to have a better sense of how I approach this office and how the people around me approach this office."

"When this information or these reports -- whether true or false -- surface, on front page newspapers, that makes the job of folks on the front lines tougher, and it makes my job tougher," he said. "Which is why, since I've been office, my attitude has been zero tolerance for these kinds of leaks and speculation."

"We're dealing with issue that can touch on the safety and security of American people, our families or our American security personal, or our allies, and so we don't play with that," he went on to say. "It is a source of consistent frustration -- not just for my administration, but for previous administration -- when this stuff happens, and we will continue to let everybody know in government, or after they leave government, that they have certain obligations that they should carry out."
Notice that while Obama decried the leaks themselves, he did not deny their veracity or that these were horrendous allegations in and of themselves .... only that they didn't come from him. He even claimed that the Times reporters have now said they didn't come from the White House. Actually, the reporters have said no such thing, at least publicly.

Scott Shane, co-author of the "Kill List" story, did write a blogpost this week blaming readers for misinterpreting the article. For example, he now denies ever having said that David Axelrod was present during "Terror Tuesday" meetings, even though his article did explicitly state that Axelrod was a silent observer. He also tried to run from his own lead, which had implied that the president mulled killing a 17-year-old girl. And then Shane blamed thousands of "left-wing" bloggers for starting rumors based on his reporting, strangely seizing upon the libertarian Prison Planet as an example of left wing rumor-mongering.

I have a feeling that Scott Shane, for all his hagiographic reportage on the Assassinator in Chief, got a bit of blowback from the White House after the publication did not have the desired effect. The majority of reader-commenters, far from cheering for the killing president, expressed disgust and shock. Shane subsequently made a lame attempt at some stenographic damage control, particularly on the Axelrod connection (as a campaign operative, he is not legally allowed to participate in White House policy meetings) and doing his patriotic duty to slime the left wing blogosphere that has had the nerve to be critical of the drone murders. Here's what I replied to Shane*:
With regard to David Axelrod's claim that he was never present at Terror Tuesday meetings, please allow me to quote the salient paragraph from your original article:
"David Axelrod, the president’s closest political adviser, began showing up at the 'Terror Tuesday' meetings, his unspeaking presence a visible reminder of what everyone ne understood: a successful attack would overwhelm the president’s other aspirations and achievements." Can you understand why your readers did not discern the difference between the casual Terror Tuesday meetings in which Axelrod merely hung out as a silent observer, and the real nitty-gritty meetings in which other people ultimately decided who was to live and who was to die? I was among those who totally missed the nuance -- so our bad, huh?

You are a master of innuendo. In this blog post, for instance, you gripe about the thousands of posters "from the left" who went nuts with their inaccuracies. You then use as an example the conspiracy site "Prison Planet" -- thus subtly implying that leftist blogs are kind of nuts. Prison Planet, incidentally, is run by a self-professed libertarian -- not a leftist by any stretch of the imagination.

For some real criticism from the left, I suggest reading Glenn Greenwald.

It seems to me that some kind of damage control is underway here. The White House thought revealing its Kill List would make the administration seem heroic. Instead, they are getting some blowback from shocked citizens. Good.

Meanwhile, The Times finds itself in the business of having to push back against the leak accusations, protesting that they were in no way spoon-fed the information by the White House. The articles in question were the results of hard digging over long periods of time by the reporters, insists Managing Editor Dean Bacquet.

It may be for all the wrong reasons, but the assassination program and accompanying evisceration of civil rights (both foreign and domestic) by this president is finally getting some attention from the mainstream media. For a good overview on the hypocrisy of the Administration's paranoid prosecution of low-level whistleblowers, read this piece by Josh Gerstein. (and of course, Glenn Greenwalds's continuing series exposing the hypocrisy and crime sprees.)

And in a literary approach to both the Times reportage and the Obama kill list itself, Francine Prose has written a stunning critique in the The New York Review of Books. Before Shane used his innuendo skills to semi-retract his own article, he used them, writes Prose, to pen a chilling indictment of Obama under the guise of flattery. She aptly compares the president's chief anti-terrorism advisor John Brennan to Rasputin and Obama himself to Tony Soprano. It's a short read, so don't miss it.

* I have taken to writing just a few of my Times comments under my maiden name initials in a craven effort to maintain my own sanity -- due to some recent personal attacks from the "veal pen" commentariat. I have been told, essentially, to shut up if I can't say anything nice about Our Leader. There is a band of people which literally "stalks" me on Times comments threads. It's the typical crap that Obama critics from the left have been subject to lately, and I have to say, it is getting nasty out there. One person even attacked me through my place of residence, describing my little hometown as being full of tattoo parlors and pitbulls. These are so-called liberals. The times they are indeed a changin'.

The only thing scarier than an Orwellian government are the Orwellian authoritarian citizens enabling it.

31 comments:

Denis Neville said...

Karen, I am dismayed to read of the personal attacks. Cheap grace is our deadly enemy. You are fighting for costly grace.

“We have been silent witnesses of evil deeds; we have been drenched by many storms; we have learnt the arts of equivocation and pretence; experience has made us suspicious of others and kept us from being truthful and open; intolerable conflicts have worn us down and even made us cynical. Are we still of any use? What we shall need is not geniuses, or cynics, or misanthropes, or clever tacticians, but plain, honest, and straightforward men. Will our inward power of resistance be strong enough, and our honesty with ourselves remorseless enough, for us to find our way back to simplicity and straightforwardness?” - Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters Papers from Prison

You have been tried and convicted of ODS. Urban Dictionary defines ODS as “Obama Derangement Syndrome", a derogatory term used for the act of critical thinking about Barack Obama. This term is derived from BDS, Bush Derangement Syndrome.” Obambots seem to think that dissent of any kind is unacceptable. They are our equivalent of the Taliban's moral police. They lash out with every bit as much invective as any follower of Bush and Cheney.

Yes, “The only thing scarier than an Orwellian government are the Orwellian authoritarian citizens enabling it.”

“Our civilization is flinging itself to pieces. Stand back from the centrifuge.” – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

Karen Garcia said...

Thanks, Denis. Check out one of the latest additions to my blog roll -- "Vast Left Wing Conspiracy" featuring cartoon Obamabots and their sayings. Pretty apt and funny stuff.

Denis Neville said...

Karen, thanks for drawing my attention to "Vast Left Wing Conspiracy," which sticks it to the Obamabots! Such simple cartoons that distill complex issues into such pointed messages, making us think as well as laugh at the Obamabots.

“Outside of basic intelligence, there is nothing more important to a good political cartoonist than ill will.” - Jules Feiffer

Ormond Otvos said...

Karen,

Welcome to the ranks of the anons. Your bravery isn't needed, your comments to the Times and elsewhere stand out for their clarity of thought.

Ormond Otvos

James F Traynor said...

We have become like Germany in the Weimar days. We are a cliche. Smoother yes, years of Madison Ave.s' techniques have contributed mightily to that.

I remember a professor of German, an ex physicist and refugee from Hitler's Third Reich, deploring how the advent of the Nazis corrupted the German language in order to justify their crimes. And its acceptance by the German people in order to justify their own baser natures. We are there.

I wonder what color badge you and others like you will required to wear Karen. Whatever it is, it will be a badge of honor.

John Chaldu said...

I actually laughed out loud when I heard that Holder was going to look into disclosures of national security secrets. So the obvious attempt to build up Warrior Obama had a little blowback. There is no mention of the morality or legality of our drone program, however. It's all about votes and image.

I can't in good conscience vote for either candidate in the next election.

Sardonicky is the first blog I read in the morning. Keep up the good work.

Anne Lavoie said...

Karen, thanks for staying on top of this while taking the heat from the Obots.

Obama managed to kill two birds with one stone. First he got recognition for being tough on terrorists, now he is making a show of being tough on the leakers, which also has the chilling effect of scaring journalists with threats of investigation and prosecution. They don't need to see a horse's head in bed to get the message.

It must be quite a dilemma trying to report the truth about the President knowing full well that he has no respect for the rule of law or even the Constitution and will eliminate or destroy anyone he wants, justified only by his own Spocklike mind. Secrets are more important to him than laws.

Little did we know when he studied Law, and Constitutional Law in particular, that he always had intentions of running for President and surely had power in mind. It hasn't come out yet, but he probably participates personally in the legal justifications for his extra-judicial crimes. After all, he is the expert, the Constitutional Law Scholar (even if he never published anything scholarly.)

You've got to hand it to Obama. He is one shrewd, conniving snake. A greater danger to our country has never existed, IMHO - not the Soviet Union, the ever present threat of nuclear war, and certainly not terrorists. He is a one-man demolition team, destroying the rule of law and Constitutional foundation of our country.

Gee, I wish I could say what I REALLY think!

Denis Neville said...

Anne Lavoie said Obama is “one shrewd, conniving snake.”

Or a cunning fox.

“If the lion was advised by the fox, he would be cunning.” - William Blake

“In fine, while wrong may be done in two ways, either by force or by fraud, the latter seems to belong, as it were, to the fox, the former to the lion, and neither to be congenial with man. Yet of the two, fraud is the most detestable. But of all forms of injustice, none is more heinous than that of the men who, while they practice fraud to the utmost of their ability, do it in such a way that they appear to be good men.” - Cicero

Zee said...

@Karen--

I am not surprised that you should be “stalked” by Obamabots when you post negative comments about our Dear Leader on the various New York Times columns.

While I have been met with nothing but courtesy here on Sardonicky—though I am still somewhat offended that @Anne Lavoie sees me as nothing more than a liberal Democrat—as a Conservative I have been met with some pretty nasty remarks when I have tried to engage “Liberals” and “Progressives” on various topics at my Progressive Christian church.

Even when I have had factual articles from respected news outlets to back my arguments, I have been called a liar and hater when I criticize “The One.” No room for discussion there.

As a Progressive musician friend once told me, some “Liberals” and “Progressives” are among the most intolerant of people.

My advice? Make sure that your private residence and public identity are as separated as possible. Mrs. Zee and I use a private mailbox at a UPS store as our legal billing place for all credit cards, utility bills, tax bills, vehicle registrations, etc. and all of our voting materials are sent there as well.

Our telephone number is unlisted.

This is not a foolproof separation of our identity from our home address, but it helps. Even armed with my last name—which is unusual—it takes a bit of patience and drilling down on the web to find out where I actually live.

Just a couple of ideas.

The Internet can be a strange place, which is why I post using a pseudonym except for a couple of trusted individuals.

I urge you to keep up the good fight, even when I don't agree with you.

4Runner said...

@ Zee
You mention "The One". I prefer a more apt monicker for our #1 drone dude: "DR. ONE".

Denis Neville said...

@ Zee – re: “nasty” “Liberals” and “Progressives” at “my Progressive Christian church”

As George Carlin said, “Oxymorons.”

It has been my observation that too many in our contemporary culture (regardless of political persuasion) divide people into winners and losers and regard kindness as a virtue of losers. Witness the heartlessness – the religion of inequality - of well-fed moralists that runs rampant and threatens our nation. A competitive society breeds unkindness. Isn’t it paradoxical that free market capitalism undermines the very social institutions – family and community - on which it used to rely.

“Pity would be no more
If we did not make somebody Poor;
And Mercy no more could be
If all were as happy as we.

And mutual fear brings peace,
Till the selfish loves increase:
Then Cruelty knits a snare,
And spreads his baits with care.

He sits down with holy fears,
And waters the grounds with tears;
Then Humility takes its root
Underneath his foot.

Soon spreads the dismal shade
Of Mystery over his head;
And the Catterpiller and Fly
Feed on the Mystery.

And it bears the fruit of Deceit,
Ruddy and sweet to eat;
And the Raven his nest has made
In its thickest shade.

The Gods of the earth and sea
Sought thro' Nature to find this Tree;
But their search was all in vain:
There grows one in the Human Brain.”

- William Blake, “The Human Abstract,” Songs of Innocence and Experience.

Zee said...

@4Runner--

I got into serious trouble over at Reality Chex for once referring to myself as "Dr. Zee."

I have since dropped the honorific.

You can call "The One" "Dr. One," or whatever you choose, but for my part, I'm leaving off any honorofics. Especiailly for a mere adjunct professor of doubtful reali-life experience.

Denis Neville said...

Righteous Outrage at Grumpy Old Conservative Men

Pseudo-Gospel papal monarchs persecute American nuns:

"The Vatican has issued a harsh statement claiming that American nuns do not follow their bishops’ thinking. That statement is profoundly true. Thank God, they don’t. Nuns have always had a different set of priorities from that of bishops. The bishops are interested in power. The nuns are interested in the powerless. Nuns have preserved Gospel values while bishops have been perverting them. The priests drive their own new cars, while nuns ride the bus (always in pairs). The priests specialize in arrogance, the nuns in humility." - Garry Wills, “Bullying the Nuns," The New York Review of Books http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2012/apr/24/bullying-nuns/

Nuns really do ride the bus!

Sister Simone Campbell, Network, the Catholic social justice lobby group and a dozen other nuns plan to hit the road June 18th on their Nuns on the Bus Tour.

www.nunsonthebus.org

“As Catholic Sisters, we are missioned to stand with people in need and to be witnesses for economic justice.”

2012 Freedom Riders! You go nuns, go!!!

Neil Gillespie said...

Bravo Karen!

BTW, this is why "they" hate U.S.:

"Among other things, we learned that the president himself is the ultimate decider of who lives and who dies. Then, close upon its heels came another scoop, describing how Obama took over a secret cyber-war against Iran begun by George W. Bush. The Stuxnet virus, long suspected to be a joint American-Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, turns out to have been another program with hands-on direction from the president himself."

"After all, the drone strikes are an open secret. Congress appropriates the money for them. Thousands have died from American bombs in Pakistan and Yemen and Somalia, many of them innocent men, women and children."

"Polls have shown that most "liberals" are just fine with our President unilaterally taking it upon himself to kill Muslims, to keep us all "safe.""

I regret my vote for Obama in 2008 that put the "Lord High Executioner" and "Assassinator in Chief" in office.

Francine Prose’s comparison of Brennan to Rasputin and Obama to Tony Soprano is misplaced; it’s more like Goebbels, Göring and Himmler when this is the ritual:

"It is the strangest of bureaucratic rituals: Every week or so, more than 100 members of the government’s sprawling national security apparatus gather, by secure video teleconference, to pore over terrorist suspects’ biographies and recommend to the president who should be the next to die."

The parsing of language by Pres. Obama on fundamental matters of life and death is reflective of how this law professor-president has perverted due process, the rule of law, and the Constitution itself. (Scott Shane in the linked story: "Separately, there are periodic meetings to consider what are called "nominations" to the kill list, held by video conference, including multiple agencies and 100 or more participants.") "Nominations" to a "kill list"? WTF is going on?

And kudos to Times managing editor Dean Baquet in the linked HuffPo piece: "Both the rise and use of drones, and the increased use of cyberwarfare, are the kinds of issues that we have a public service mission to surface so they can be part of a national debate," Baquet said Thursday in an interview with The Huffington Post."

This morning on Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer, Dianne Feinstein prattled on about the need to investigate security leaks in order to protect the American people. Can someone explain to me why we are not addressing the cause of terror attacks against the U.S.? Why for over 10 years since 9-11 we have waged wars against "terrorism" with little attempt to understand our enemies’ motives or goals? And why for over 10 years we have foregone any effort to negotiate some kind of peace agreement?

We need a presidential candidate to run on a peace and prosperity platform. Make peace with the "terrorists" and focus effort on economic prosperity. Or as Ms. Prose noted, "After that, we begin to read differently, noting how the journalists cite Hillary Clinton’s complaints about the drones-only policy and her suggestion to the president that "there should be more attention paid to the root causes of radicalization" to introduce the idea that alternatives to current practices do exist.""

Sorry to read about the personal attacks KG. If you ever feel the need for an "undisclosed location" there is a safe house waiting in the sunshine state.

Denis Neville said...

Outraged Ordinary People Demand Mean Economy

Never mind the top, avoid the bottom [“last-place aversion”]:

“The people who were a spot away from the bottom were the most likely to give the money to the person above them: rewarding the ‘rich’ but ensuring that someone remained poorer than themselves. Those not at risk of becoming the poorest did not seem to mind falling a notch in the distribution of income nearly as much. This idea is backed up by survey data from America collected by Pew, a polling company: those who earned just a bit more than the minimum wage were the most resistant to increasing it. Poverty may be miserable. But being able to feel a bit better-off than someone else makes it a bit more bearable.”
http://www.economist.com/node/21525851

Indiana Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels calls for the elimination of public sector unions, "I think government works better without them, I really do.”

And so do other workers:
http://www.gocomics.com/tomtoles/2012/06/07

Ian Welsh: “Ordinary people hate other ordinary people who are doing better than them. The politics of envy isn’t about the rich, whom ordinary people almost never see, but about their neighbours. And Americans want a mean economy, one where everyone has to suffer like they do. As long as the union movement is about a few people keeping higher wages, it will continue to fail. A union movement which is centered around public service unions cannot stand.”
http://www.ianwelsh.net/the-scott-walker-recall-fails/

The Democrats will lend a helping hand, led by the phony baloney Obama. “If American workers are being denied their right to organize when I'm in the White House, I will put on a comfortable pair of shoes and I will walk on that picket line with you as president of the United States." - Barack Obama, 2007

“No real social change has ever been brought about without a revolution. Revolution is but thought carried into action. Every effort for progress, for enlightenment, for science, for religious, political, and economic liberty, emanates from the minority, and not from the mass.” - Emma Goldman

Oxymoron: Bill Maher to OWS: Stop camping in parks and start participating in the political process; Bill Maher is the same person who recently donated a million dollars to the Obama political campaign.

Turning a movement into a campaign is what killed the original mass movement in Wisconsin.

“People have only as much liberty as they have the intelligence to want and the courage to take.” - Emma Goldman

Anonymous said...

@Denis:


“In fine, while wrong may be done in two ways, either by force or by fraud, the latter seems to belong, as it were, to the fox, the former to the lion, and neither to be congenial with man. Yet of the two, fraud is the most detestable. But of all forms of injustice, none is more heinous than that of the men who, while they practice fraud to the utmost of their ability, do it in such a way that they appear to be good men.” - Cicero

You know... I remember Cicero. Kind of a plutocracy-loving jerk, as I recall from the readings. I hesitate to say it, but I don't really know the value of quoting him - a vastly overrated dude, with whom I think you probably would have taken issue had you been in his Senate. In fact, Cicero was kind of fraudulent in his own right.

Denis Neville said...

Phony Liberal

Steve Almond, “Liberals Are Ruining America. I Know Because I Am One.”

“This, to be blunt, is the tragic flaw of the modern liberal. We choose to see ourselves as innocent victims of an escalating right-wing fanaticism. But too often we serve as willing accomplices to this escalation and to the resulting degradation of our civic discourse. We do this, without even meaning to, by consuming conservative folly as mass entertainment.”

“It’s time for all of us - liberal, conservative and otherwise - to define ourselves as Americans not by who we hate but by what we can do to strengthen our communities and country.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/10/magazine/liberals-are-ruining-america-i-know-because-i-am-one.html

Rubbish! Liberals are entirely to blame for the popularity and influence of right-wing fanatics? All liberals need to do is ignore them – and by doing so,serve as willing accomplices to their fanaticism - and the problem will be solved? Another faux liberal speaks for liberals.

As Atrios says, mainstream media will continue mainstream the Right’s follies without rebuttal. Mainstream America watches Fox News. Not to mention the inability of most people to apply the necessary sustained attention and concentrated effort. (The Gnat introduced Alice to three insects: the Rocking-Horse-Fly, the Snap-Dragonfly, and the Bread-and-Butterfly. Then, it sighed itself away.)

“Liberals” of his ilk are our worst enemy. Dealing with them is like the myth of Sisyphus: The gods condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight. They had thought with some reason that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor.

“There's letters seal'd, and my two schoolfellows,
Whom I will trust as I will adders fang'd—
They bear the mandate, they must sweep my way
And marshal me to knavery. Let it work;
For 'tis the sport to have the enginer
Hoist with his own petard, an't shall go hard
But I will delve one yard below their mines
And blow them at the moon.”
- Shakespeare, Hamlet Act 3, scene 4

I say, hoist them – faux liberals and right-wing fanatics - on their own petards.

“Even men without a gospel have their Mount of Olives. And one must not fall asleep on theirs either.” - Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays

Zee said...

@4Runner--

Finally got the joke! I was more than a little tired last night and probably should not have been commenting at all.

(Not Dr.) Zee

Denis Neville said...

@ Anonymous - re: Cicero, “value of quoting him - a vastly overrated dude;” “fraudulent in his own right”

I will concede the latter, not the former.

From Plutarch’s “ The Life of Cicero,”

“Although many men of importance stood for the praetorship along with Cicero, he was appointed first of them all; and men thought that he managed the cases which came before him with integrity and fairness… For this man beyond all others showed the Romans how great a charm eloquence adds to the right, and that justice is invincible if it is correctly put in words, and that it behooves the careful statesman always in his acts to choose the right instead of the agreeable, and in his words to take away all vexatious features from what is advantageous...

“But he made himself generally odious, not by any base action, but by continually praising and magnifying himself, which made him hateful to many… he even went so far as to fill his books and writings with these praises of himself; and he made his oratory, which was naturally very pleasant and had the greatest charm, irksome and tedious to his hearers, since this unpleasant practice clung to him like a fatality…These complaints were characteristic of ambition, as well as the fact that he was often led on by the cleverness of his speech to disregard propriety.”

http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Plutarch/Lives/Cicero*.html

Rome had is dark underbelly of politics just as we do. Cicero gave in to ambition, and in doing so, went against his devotion to the rule of law. Building political alliances, he went back on things he said before. Alas, hypocrisy, the essence of power. In political combat with Caesar and others in Rome, Cicero did things that had brutal dimensions. Cicero's compromises come back to haunt him often. We must in a democracy attack politicians for their hypocrisy. So today, Cicero’s discrepancies in his thought and character have tarnished and caused much criticism of his ideal but contradictory life.

Nevertheless,

With the possible exception of Jesus, Cicero is the leading figure of western civilization. His republican political theory greatly influenced both the American and French revolutionaries, and through them, contemporary democracies everywhere. And, as a moral thinker, the idea of natural law of both Christian theologians and secular philosophers came from Cicero.

Anonymous said...

@Denis,
A few notes:
1) I love Plutarch's story-telling (providing the basic storyline for a few of Shakespeare's greatest plays ain't chopped liver) but quoting him as an authority on anything is, well, misguided.
2) As for natural law, check Plato and Aristotle first, not the derivative Cicero.
3) Cicero's supposed eloquence doesn't hold up if you actually read through his speeches. He's like Don Rickles in Latin - the king of insult humor.
4) if you want a demonstration of how desperately Cicero mangles the truth to support his own aristocratic friends, read the Plebeian Sallust on the Catiline Conspiracy. Pithier and stronger than Cicero's material (by the way, "Ciceronian" oratory is not considered a compliment and has not been for centuries) it also demonstrates how corrupt the Republic was.
5) Lastly, use and misuse of classics, Dennis: Just because you read it in Latin doesn't mean it's gold.


4)

Jay - Ottawa said...

“The only thing scarier than an Orwellian government are the Orwellian authoritarian citizens enabling it.”

If you know the dealer is cheating, if you see him dealing from the bottom of the deck or shuffling the cards real funny, if he keeps ruling your royal straight flush inferior to his two jacks and can therefore rake in everything on the table into his pile … duh … what’s the point of playing his game at his table? Appearances? You’re already down to your shorts and T-shirt.

“But everyone else is still in the game,” we keep hearing from our liberal pals, and our sincere conservative seekers after truth and our Scott Shane types pulling their punches in the very finest of publications.

By way of reinforcement for staying the course, the Yellow Dog Democrats keep telling us, “Get real. You have no better place to go. Stick with us at this table, and maybe the high rollers will buy us all a free beer at some point. Well, eventually. Well, at least a glass of water – for sure, we can guarantee a sip of water now and then because, at bottom, the dealer and the guys he’s slipping cards to on the other side of the table are really nice folks when you get to know them.”

In the MSM just about all of the analysts narrow the chances of reform down to the Tweedle Dems or Tweedle Reps.

The only way to stop losing big is to leave this crooked table. Otherwise we continue to enable the Orwellian scenario under Kafka’s rules. They won’t stop when we’re naked. They are coming after our skin.

In recent days two straight talkers have told us where to take our wallets, our sympathies and our bodies if we want a return to fair play. Both articles refer to the big mistake made in Wisconsin by traditional liberal forces.

Time to start thinking about thinking out of the box.

http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175556/tomgram%3A_andy_kroll%2C_how_the_wisconsin_uprising_got_hijacked/?utm_source=TomDispatch&utm_campaign=f11b9122e1-TD_Kroll6_10_2012&utm_medium=email

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/americas_street_priest_20120611/

Zee said...

@Denis and @Jay--

I guess that I'm puzzled by the high degree of support that public-sector unions find in this forum. None other than Franklin D. Roosevelt seemed to oppose the creation of public-sector unions:

“ All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service... Particularly, I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of government employees. Upon employees in the Federal service rests the obligation to serve the whole people, whose interests and welfare require orderliness and continuity in the conduct of government activities. This obligation is paramount. Since their own services have to do with the functioning of the Government, a strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government until their demands are satisfied. Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government by those who have sworn to support it, is unthinkable and intolerable.” --Franklin D. Roosevelt

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public-sector_trade_union

Now, FDR seems to have been mostly concerned with the limited issues of collective bargaining and strikes in the public sector. (One wonders how FDR might have dealt with the Professional Flight Controllers Organization strike of 1981.)

My principal concern is the incestuous, self-dealing relationships that will inevitably develop between political office holders and the public-sector unions. It should not take a rocket scientist to understand that public-sector unions will always throw their substantial financial resources behind those candidates who promise the best deals—once elected—to the unions, the public's best interests be damned.

Why are Progressives not troubled by this obvious conflict of interest?

These sweetheart deals are the reason that so many public-sector union pensions are breaking—financially—so many of the states today. I have been trying to determine just what kind of pensions unionized state workers receive, and it has not been easy. However, it appears that at least some Wisconsin State workers—who may or not belong to unions— receive pensions that are rather lavish compared to mine, for comparable years of service and, perhaps, educational background:

According to a (self-advertised) progressive news outlet, a 57-year-old State of Wisconsin worker, accountant Tom Gallagher, retired with 70% of his final annual salary.

http://host.madison.com/ct/business/article_930bf94a-7e36-11df-abb9-001cc4c03286.html

“Nice work if you can get it...” goes the song.

I retired at the same age from my private sector job with slightly more than 36% of my final annual salary, after taking a 10% hit to ensure that Mrs. Zee received my entire pension benefit should I pre-decease her. Gallagher had thirty years of service, I had 27+, so we are not that different in terms of “years of service.” But even had I worked to age 65, I would never have come close to 70% of my final salary. Gallagher, on the other hand, qualified for full benefits at 57.

Now, I'm not whining that I—or the public—have been cheated somehow. I made my deal, Gallagher made his, and we're both happy, I hope. (And Gallagher's deal was approved by the voters, whether they understood that of not. Buyer beware.) I relate this story because it is at least consistent with the assertion by Conservatives that public-sector job benefits may be more than a little “out of synch” with the private sector, and public-sector unions would be at the heart of this problem.

Even if Gallagher was “non-union,” he would benefit from healthy union pension contracts, because employers inevitably try to give non-represented employees even better benefits than the unions would get, driving state costs even higher.

Zee said...

@All--

Here's a column that appeared in the Albuquerque Journal a couple of days ago. I had to search a bit to find the same article, for which I could provide a link.

It's by a former (unionized) teacher whose husband is currently employed as a (unionized) teacher. Esther Cepeda talks about some of the same observations—about which I inquired on the previous thread—regarding why more than a few Wisconsin teachers chose not to rejoin the American Federation of Teachers once Wisconsin law allowed them to leave:

http://www.mysanantonio.com/opinion/commentary/article/Wisconson-election-proved-union-stature-plummeting-3620106.php

Echoing what I said on the previous thread, Cepeda says:

“...not every tradesman or teacher wants to be forced into joining a union. And they certainly don't want to pay hefty union fees that go toward supporting political agendas that have nothing to do with, say, educating children. --Esther Cepeda

And continuing on in a slightly different vein,

“Could this [teachers having increasingly negative views of their own unions] be because teachers are getting tired of being political pawns? Is it possible they're annoyed because they show up for work every day desiring only to teach children but are bombarded with union propaganda that seeks to paint the communities they teach in as toxic toward educators?

Or maybe teachers no longer want to be represented by organizations that insist on portraying their rewarding white-collar profession as being on par with the struggles of coal miners.
--Esther Cepeda

In contrast, @Denis' earlier explanation for the precipitous decline in Wisconsin's AFT membership is that:

“Teachers, like nurses (having witnessed numerous unsuccessful attempts to organize them), (because they're mostly women?) are a pretty passive lot (Rose Ann DeMoro and National Nurses United exempted). They're generally apolitical and far too obedient. Nobody wants to rock the boat, even though it's capsizing around them. Especially nowadays with so many teachers being fired because of state and local budget crises. “ --Denis Neville,

Well, having been married for almost 38 years to a pretty feisty Hispanic female, I beg to differ. I think that Cepeda's explanations—which, happily, parallel mine—are rather more credible, unless the participants in this forum care to overlook fifty to one hundred years of progress in female liberation. (Not complete, I acknowledge, but who really cares to dare to generalize women as “a pretty passive lot” today?)

Just a couple of additional thoughts as to why membership in Wisconsin's public-sector unions is plummeting.

Denis Neville said...

@ Zee – I thought of you and Mrs. Zee while watching the news tonight about New Mexico fires burning out of control. Those fires are south of where you live aren’t they? How is the air quality?

Years ago, I enjoyed hiking in the mountains near Ruidosa, where the fire is zero controlled.

My wish for New Mexico:

“May the blessing of the rain be on you—
the soft sweet rain.
May it fall upon your spirit
so that all the little flowers may spring up,
and shed their sweetness on the air.
May the blessing of the great rains be on you,
may they beat upon your spirit
and wash it fair and clean,
and leave there many a shining pool
where the blue of heaven shines,
and sometimes a star.”
- Old Irish blessing

Zee said...

@Denis--

Thank you for your kind expression of concern about the fires here in New Mexico.

We live in Albuquerque, at the foot of the Sandia Mountains. We are well away from the fires in Ruidoso (the "Little Bear Fires") and the fires in the Gila Wilderness. Both are well to the south of us, but we feel the impact nevertheless.

And tomorrow, who knows? At the moment, the fires are well to the south. But in an instant, it could be the north that is on fire.

Smoke chokes our skies daily, to the point where even the Sandias seem to be on fire as we roll up the hill to our home. Mrs. Zee's allergies are--if you will pardon the pun--on fire. But the human toll that we see on the news every night is far worse.

We are a poor state, and many homeowners lack insurance. It is devastating to see poor souls who have lived in their remote homes for decades, who have lost everything in the fires.

I intend to look into aid efforts for these people here in New Mexico. Our "progressive" Christian church has sent missions to New Orleans for five years running, but it is time that we began to apply our efforts closer to home.

Again, thank you for your prayers for us. The monsoon season--as we call it here-cannot arrive too soon.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Oh well, let us now praise famous men – and damn the unions. Howard Zinn, you left us before your work was done.

Ever feel as though you’ve been knocked out by the drug of banality only to wake up in Room 101? If Orwell were still around, I imagine he would come up with a few more rules to live by for an update of “1984.” I have a few suggestions in light of the nonsense that prevails over the land.

UNION SOLIDARITY BEGETS CHAOS AND PENURY.

UNORGANIZED HELPLESSNESS IS THE TRUE PATH TO DIGNITY AND CONTENTMENT.

MY SELF SATISFACTION OUGHT TO BE ENOUGH FOR YOU TOO.

UNDER BIG BROTHER, BLINDNESS IS AS GOOD AS SIGHT.

As time and over-elastic comment limits permit, how about our commentariat’s now stretching out the tedium by riding another grand old hobbyhorse like, say, those ubiquitous Welfare Queens driving around in Cadillacs?

“The only thing scarier than an Orwellian government are the Orwellian authoritarian citizens enabling it.”

Neil Gillespie said...

To all the union haters, part 1

What would the American workplace look like without unions and worker protection? The sweatshops of the People’s Republic of China, or the former Agriprocessors meat-packaging factory in Postville, Iowa, or the faces of child laborers still common in some parts of the world, including the United States.

If unions are flawed, call for reform, fix them, don’t just demonize and destroy them.

"Because not every tradesman or teacher wants to be forced into joining a union. And they certainly don't want to pay hefty union fees that go toward supporting political agendas that have nothing to do with, say, educating children."

Sounds a lot like…

Because not every millionaire or billionaire wants to be forced into paying their fair share of taxes. And they certainly don't want to pay taxes that go toward supporting political agendas that have nothing to do with, say, feathering their own nests.

Participants in this forum should not overlook over one hundred and fifty years of progress made by unions in securing workers’ rights.

"Originating in Europe, trade unions became popular in many countries during the Industrial Revolution, when the lack of skill necessary to perform most jobs shifted employment bargaining power almost completely to the employers' side, causing many workers to be mistreated and underpaid." Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trade_union

Wikipedia has a photo of unarmed labour union demonstrators surrounded by soldiers pointing rifles with bayonets during the 1912 Lawrence textile strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts.

Wikipedia has a photo of a young girl working on a loom in Aït Benhaddou, Morocco in May 2008.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_labour

"Child labour is still common in some parts of the world, it can be factory work, mining, prostitution, quarrying, agriculture, helping in the parents' business, having one's own small business (for example selling food), or doing odd jobs."

"In early August 2008, Iowa Labor Commissioner David Neil announced that his department had found that Agriprocessors, a kosher meatpacking company in Postville which had recently been raided by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, had employed 57 minors, some as young as 14, in violation of state law prohibiting anyone under 18 from working in a meatpacking plant. Neil announced that he was turning the case over to the state Attorney General for prosecution, claiming that his department's inquiry had discovered "egregious violations of virtually every aspect of Iowa's child labor laws." Agriprocessors claimed that it was at a loss to understand the allegations. Agriprocessors' CEO went to trial on these charges in state court on May 4, 2010. After a five-week trial he was found not guilty of all 57 charges of child labour violations by the Black Hawk County District Court jury in Waterloo, Iowa, on June 7, 2010."

Neil Gillespie said...

To all the union haters, part 2

But in another Agriprocessors case…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agriprocessors

"Agriprocessors faced accusations of mistreatment of cattle, pollution, and a series of alleged violations of labor law. In May 2008, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) staged a raid of the plant, and arrested nearly 400 illegal immigrant workers. Agriprocessors plants stopped operating in October 2008, and the firm filed for bankruptcy on November 5 of the same year. Sholom Rubashkin as the highest ranking day-to-day corporate officer was charged with federal financial fraud and sentenced to 27 years in prison in June 2010."

"On June 22, 2010, Rubashkin was sentenced to 27 years in prison. Prosecutors had asked for a 25-year sentence, Rubashkin's attorney for a six-year term. Rubashkin was also ordered to make $26,852,152.51 in restitution, special assessments of $8,600 were imposed, and he must serve a five-year term of supervised release after the prison term. His lawyers have filed an appeal. In October 2010, Judge Reade rejected Sholom Rubashkin's motion for a new trial."

"In May 2011, Sholom Rubashkin used political connections to seek a rehearing and reduction of his sentence; among others, Reps. Anthony Weiner and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) lobbied for a review of the case; Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL Rep.) lobbied US Attorney General Eric Holder personally on Rubashkin's behalf; and Rep. Yvette Clark (D-NY) argued that her constituents in Brooklyn, the Rubashkin family base, deemed the punishment too harsh and feared a hike in the price of kosher food."

An example of misplaced priorities by our Democratic leaders.

If unions are flawed, call for reform, fix them, don’t just demonize and destroy them.

Zee said...

@Neil--

If I am reading too much into your remarks, I apologize in advance. But because I am the only one in this forum who has raised a few questions about unions lately, I guess I have to express some concern if you perceive me as a “union hater” or “union demonizer.”

Please be assured that I believe that unions have played a very important role in alleviating the abuses and excesses of capitalism in the past, and have a similar role to play in the future,

But I also believe that over the past few threads I have asked some legitimate questions about the legality of the way in which unions—both public- and private-sector—are currently allowed to operate in this country.

And I have proposed a simple reform that would eliminate most of my concerns about unions. Something that I don't believe I have heard from anyone else in this forum.

To recap:

First, I believe that it is fundamentally wrong to require employees of private companies to belong to unions when their membership dues are used for political purposes with which they may disagree. Whatever happened to the right of free association?

Second, I am even more opposed to the incestuous, self-dealing relationship that arises between public-sector unions and political office-holders. Public-sector unions use their membership dues to support candidates who will—when elected—turn around and accept contracts that can be ridiculously generous to the unions, while screwing the public. The unions will then once again use their dues—often extracted from unwilling employees—to keep their “tame legislators” in office in perpetuity, and screwing the public in perpetuity, too.

This is a truly obscene conflict of interest.

And no, I don't see a whit of “parity” between rich crooks who are trying to avoid paying their taxes, and a corrupt union that wrongfully extracts dues from a (partially) unwilling, working-class membership to bribe crooked politicians—who are playing both ends against the middle anyway. “But the other side does it too” is not a rationalization that works with me.

A thread or two ago I proposed a very reasonable fix to this problem. Require that union membership dues be used strictly for union activities, such as collective bargaining.

And second, allow union members to donate to an entirely separate union-operated political action committee, but strictly on a voluntary basis
and with strict accounting standards to ensure separation of union dues from the PAC.

Thus, even if a union contract with a private company requires membership in a union, the unwilling members will at least know that their dues are being used to enhance their pay and benefits, and not to elect Democrats.

Apart from the fact that both public- and private-sector unions would howl at this loss of political clout (read: “ ability to bribe politicians”) what is unreasonable about this proposal?

I just don't see this as hating or demonizing unions.

Again, I apologize if I have read too much into your remarks. As @Kat can tell you, I sometimes do this.

Neil Gillespie said...

@Zee, part 1

My comments were not directed to you. I welcome your suggestions for union reform, because unions are vital to American labor and families, and therefore unions are vital to the economic well-being of the United States.

I take issue with the quote by Esther Cepeda in the Washington Post: "Because not every tradesman or teacher wants to be forced into joining a union. And they certainly don't want to pay hefty union fees that go toward supporting political agendas that have nothing to do with, say, educating children."

http://www.mysanantonio.com/opinion/commentary/article/Wisconson-election-proved-union-stature-plummeting-3620106.php

In my view this sounds a lot like millionaires and billionaires who don’t want to pay their fare share of taxes, because each group wants benefits without paying for them. Union dues are a tax on union members.

Tradesmen and teachers generally benefit from unions whether or not they are dues-paying union members because of the union wage premium.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Union_wage_premium

Tradesmen and teachers who are not dues-paying union members but who earn wages and benefits at the union rate are freeloaders. Same goes for millionaires and billionaires who use American labor and markets to make a profit but then don’t want to pay their fare share of taxes.

Elisabeth Warren made this point last year: "There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there -- good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn't have to worry that maurauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory... Now look. You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea -- God Bless! Keep a Big Hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along."

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/09/20/1018700/-Warren-Tells-It-Like-it-Is-No-One-in-This-Country-Got-Rich-on-his-Own

I suppose a tradesmen or teacher could forgo union dues and membership, and work for less pay and benefits than the union wage premium. But I don’t see that mentioned in the piece by Esther Cepeda, just a demand for a free lunch on the back of the union.

As for your argument about freedom of association, and "it is fundamentally wrong to require employees of private companies to belong to unions when their membership dues are used for political purposes with which they may disagree", this commingles several issues. You do not identify which employees of private companies are required to belong to unions, but this is not involuntary servitude, and those workers can quit if they don’t like the terms and conditions of their employment with a private company. The freedom to quit a job is about freedom of association, right? It just sounds like those workers like making the union wage premium, but don’t want to pay union dues. (freeloaders)

Neil Gillespie said...

@Zee, part 2

As for dues (or taxes) used for political purposes with which one may disagree, you could, as you suggest, set up voluntarily donations to a separate union-operated political action committee. But remember that we are all required to pay taxes even when used for political purposes with which we may disagree, such as the "nomination" by our government of people to be put on an extrajudicial "kill list". Members of a union, or citizens of a nation, each have elected officials to represent their interest in the union or the nation. As far as I know, neither union members nor citizens of a nation have an "opt out" provision to suspend the payment of dues or taxes for disagreement over a particular political purpose, but maybe they should. But since money paid as union dues or sovereign taxes is fungible, how would one realistically implement any such use restrictions? (i.e., how has the Social Security "lock box" idea worked?)